As more than half of the national staff at the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal enter their fifth day of strike action over unpaid wages, the U.N. has issued its strongest statement so far urging the government to fulfill its financial obligations to the court.
David Scheffer, the U.N.’s special expert to the court, said in a statement dated Wednesday that the government was failing to meet its commitments to the hybrid body, leading to an ongoing strike of about 140 Cambodian staff members who have not been paid for more than three months.
“The national budget crisis of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC] has been generated by a failure on the part of the Royal Government of Cambodia to meet its legal obligation to fund the salaries of most national staff at the Court,” Mr. Scheffer said in the statement.
“The United Nations has pressed the Royal Government of Cambodia repeatedly to step up to its legal obligation so as to avoid such crises,” the statement continues, adding that Mr. Scheffer had toured five Asean countries with Cambodian government officials in an attempt to solicit funding for the national side of the court.
“In this context, it must be noted that one cannot argue for more efficiency or speedier trial proceedings at the ECCC and at the same time starve it of the necessary funding,” the statement adds.
In a separate statement yesterday, ECCC Office of Administration Acting Director Tony Kranh said that the recurring problem of funding shortfalls on the national side was threatening to disrupt the court’s work in the final stages of Case 002, in which two of the four original octogenarian Khmer Rouge regime defendants remain healthy enough to stand trial.
“Once again, the ECCC is facing the same crisis of lack of funding that has occurred every year, and which is seriously damaging to the morale of all the national judicial officers and staff, as well as to our international colleagues,” Mr. Kranh says in the statement.
“Due to fact that this time the national judicial officers and staff have not received their salary for three months, it is hardly surprising that the Court is presently facing a high risk of disruption of its work,” the statement continues.
The current strike is the second time local staff have walked off the job this year due to unpaid salaries.